Prosecutors Question Issa Sesay About RUF Commander’s Promotion To General

Prosecutors today questioned Issa Hassan Sesay about allegations that Charles Taylor promoted a fellow Sierra Leonean rebel commander to the rank of Two Star General in late 1998, a time when the Sierra Leonean rebels were actively pursuing the conflict in Sierra Leone. Mr. Sesay insisted that it was not Mr. Taylor who issued the promotion to the Sierra Leonean rebel commander.

Prosecutors allege that when Revolutionary United Front (RUF) leader Foday Sankoh was incarcerated by the government of Sierra Leone, Mr. Taylor had full control over the RUF and that the rebel group’s commanders took all orders from the former Liberian president. According to several prosecution witnesses, sometime in 1998, RUF commander Sam Bockarie returned from Liberia and informed them that Mr. Taylor had promoted him to the rank of General in the RUF. Prosecutors say this points at Mr. Taylor’s control over the Sierra Leonean rebel group.

Mr. Taylor has dismissed these allegations as false. Mr. Sesay has told the court that Mr. Bockarie was promoted by Johnny Paul Koroma, then former leader of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), a group of Sierra Leonean soldiers who overthrew the elected government of Sierra Leone in 1997 and teamed up with the RUF to establish a government. The joint AFRC/RUF junta regime was forcefully removed from power by Economic Community of West African States (ECOMOG) peacekeepers in 1998.

Today, prosecution counsel Nicholas Koumjian in cross-examining Mr. Sesay showed him individual pictures of Mr. Bockarie, Mr. Taylor’s former vice president Moses Blah, and the former Director of Special Security Services Benjamin Yeaten who, according to Mr. Koumjian, all displayed their stars indicating their military ranks in the same fashion. In the picture, all three persons were wearing “red berets” with the stars indicating their positions as Generals on the front of their berets.

“The red berets are identical that Sam Bockarie, Benjamin Yeaten, and Moses Blah are wearing, correct?” Mr. Koumjian asked Mr. Sesay.

“Yes, I see them, but we too had red berets.” Mr. Sesay responded.

When the prosecution noted that “[i]t’s the same uniform, the same type of khaki uniform that Sam Bockarie has with the Liberians,” Mr. Sesay explained that “this is a US camouflage that the Nigerians used to wear, we used to capture them.”

“When we joined the AFRC, [Corporal] Gborie used to supply those red berets to the RUF. Even when we fought ECOMOG, we used to capture these camouflage, we captured lots of red berets,” he added.

Mr. Koumjian pointed out that the difference between the Sierra Leone Army (SLA) and Mr. Taylor’s forces was that in Sierra Leone, the soldiers displayed their stars on their military uniforms while Mr. Taylor’s forces displayed theirs on their berets, as done by Mr. Yeaten and Mr. Blah. Mr. Sesay agreed with Mr. Koumjian on this.

“It’s correct, isn’t it, that the Sierra Leone Army would not wear stars on the beret?” Mr. Koumjian asked again.

In response, Mr. Sesay said, “Yes, the Sierra Leone Army, they put their ranks on their uniform.”

“This is just further evidence that the promotion of Sam Bockarie was done by Mr. Taylor, not Johnny Paul Koroma,” Mr. Koumjian challenged Mr. Sesay.

“No,” Mr. Sesay said. “He was promoted by Johnny Paul. They can promote you and you’ll remove the star from the uniform and put it on your beret. That’s what Sam Bockarie did.”

As diamonds have taken a center stage in the case against Mr. Taylor, Mr. Koumjian also today asked Mr. Sesay several questions relating to the gemstone. Prosecution witnesses have testified that after the removal of the AFRC from power by ECOMOG forces in 1998, RUF commanders, including Mr. Sesay and Mr. Bockarie, harassed AFRC leader Johnny Paul Koroma and removed diamonds from his briefcase. These diamonds, a prosecution witness said, amounted to more than 1,000 pieces and were taken to Mr. Taylor in Liberia in exchange for arms and ammunition. While admitting that the diamonds were taken from Johnny Paul Koroma, Mr. Sesay has disputed the quantity of the diamonds as well as the allegations that Mr. Taylor benefited from them. Mr. Sesay said that there were only 14 pieces of diamonds that he was supposed to take to Burkina Faso, but they were mistakenly lost while he was in transit in Liberia.

Mr. Koumjian read from a portion of the 1999 salute report that was presented to Mr. Sankoh by RUF commander Mr. Bockarie after the RUF leader’s release from jail. In the report, Mr. Bockarie referenced more than 1,000 pieces of diamonds that were obtained from Johnny Paul Koroma and a separate “14 pieces of diamonds [which were] misplaced by Issa Sesay.” Mr. Sesay insisted that his account about the diamonds was the correct account.

According to Mr. Sesay, when these diamonds were misplaced in Liberia, an announcement was made over the ELWA radio in Monrovia confirming their loss.

When asked about such a radio announcement during his testimony as a witness in his own defense, Mr. Taylor told the court, “I never heard that report.”

When confronted with the allegation that he had made up this story about the ELWA radio station announcement, Mr. Sesay said, “No, no, no. I did not make this up. This was well known in Buedu. That is not a made up story.”

When told that “these were not the diamonds taken from Johnny Paul Koroma,” Mr. Sesay insisted that “those were the diamonds.

Mr. Sesay also made clear that he did not have the ability to determine the value or price of diamonds that were used to obtain arms and ammunition for the RUF. This prompted another allegation from Mr. Koumjian.

“The reason why you don’t know the value of diamonds is because you’ll take the diamonds to Mr. Taylor and he’ll give you whatever money he wanted together with arms and ammunition,” Mr. Koumjian said.

“No. That’s not true. I never took diamonds to Mr. Taylor and he never gave me arms and ammunition,” Mr. Sesay responded.

Mr. Sesay’s testimony continues on Thursday.


  1. I am not sure what is the rational behind Mr. Koumjian’s line of questioning, but putting propositions and suggestions to the witness (Sesay) is not going to cut it for the prosecution.

    Many years ago it was a common practice for law schools to teach students that if the prosecution/defense didn’t have evidence to present to the court but somehow assumed the accused committed the act, it was a good strategy for the counselor from the defense/prosecution to put propositions/ suggestions to the witness. The reason for this strategy is quite simple. The counselor is indirectly telling the juries in this instance the judges the prosecution doesn’t have the evidence to present to the court but the prosecution assumes the crime was committed by the accused. Unfortunately, this strategy does not hold water anymore. Many lawyers have used this strategy to convict the innocent. Modern courts surely rely on the evidence.

    That’s the reason Mr. Koumjian is putting all of these propositions to the witness (Sesay). Mr. Koumjian is indirectly telling the judges the prosecution do not have the evidence however, the prosecution assumes under the circumstances based on XYZ the accused did indeed committed the act.

    Notwithstanding, Sesay is a tough nut to creak. He (Sesay) will answered most questions pertaining to the RUF the way Mr. Koumjian wants but as soon as Mr. Koumjian began to ask those proposition questions linking President Taylor to the RUF Sesay answered something like this: That’s not the way it happened. That’s not what Pa Sankoh told me. Bockarie was not taking order from Mr. Taylor. I was not appointed to head the RUF by Mr. Taylor…

    Mr. Koumjian is not going anywhere with this witness therefore, he (Koumjian) needs to hurry up and wrap this thing up. One can’t squeeze water out of rock something Mr. Koumjian is attempting to do. The trial is beginning to get boring; I can almost predict what is going to happened the next day. The same old BS but on a different days.

    1. Good Big B, you seem to know a lot about court procedures than you employ in most of your arguements in previous postings. However, I think this arguement is more of a “rationale” or “justification” of what you think, Mr. Koumjian’s approach and style of questioning is, than the objectives. And then your clevery complaining of the trial being boring, and that you can almost predict what is going to happen the next day! Hu…! What do you mean, Big B? Are you still on this BS?

      1. Wow! My good friend fallah said Good Big. I am not sure if this is a compliment or a sarcastic remark. Anyway, I’ll take it as a compliment.

        Guess what fallah, I’ll not rest until you see the light that this case is political.

        1. Dear Big B,

          I agree, the prosecution has failed to form a nexus to Mr. Sesay’s current testimony as a defense witness as it would relate to contradictions under cross examination; this is no more than a filibuster. If the prosecution had a case, it gives the impression they would have not impeded the trial but expedited the presentation of evidence.

          Not only do I think they have a weak case against Mr. Taylor, they confirmed that Mr. Sesay was an involuntary RUF conscript which is in violation of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. The evidence show that had it not been for the violations of the Grave breaches of the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions, Mr. Sesay would have been fighting for his life in the RUF, but off enjoying his life someplace else in the world:

          • willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments
          • willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health
          • compelling one to serve in the forces of a hostile power
          • willfully depriving one of the right to a fair trial
          Also considered grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention are the following:

          • taking of hostages
          • extensive destruction and appropriation of property not justified by military
          necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly
          • unlawful deportation, transfer, or confinement.

          The pivotal point for Mr. Sesay was being compelled to serve in the forces of a hostile power. The same law he was prosecuted under, protects his rights in 1990, when he was involuntarily in-scripted. The prosecution has stated that he was with the RUF only because he was afraid of what would happen if he tried to escape. I am not defending his acts; I am merely attempting to cast light upon his State-Of-Mind prior to his confidence to disarm the RUF.

          I hope that he can be released and given the opportunity to apologize to the people of Sierra Leone; and Sierra Leone has been a signatory of the Geneva Convention from 1949, he is a protected member.

          There is no question that his human rights were not violated by the RUF. His defense counsels Wayne Jordash, Sareta Ashraph and Jared Kneitel failed him whether they were aware of the Convention violations or not.

        2. Big B,
          Even Fallah has given up…..I strongly believe he could and would have done better in his questioning of Mr. Sesay. What was gained today really??? Even the judges were helping Mr. Koumjain….so so sad.

  2. Well people,
    so where are we? the prosecution seems to have run out of ideas and are just putting every proposition they can think of no matter how ridiculous, to Mr Sesay.

    For example, itwas a prosecution witness that first stated to the court that Issa Sesay misplaced diamonds in Monrovia and that an announcement was mode over the radio in monrovia that diamonds have been found on the streets in the city. Now during Mr Taylor’s testimony, that account was put to him wether he ever heard that announcement on the radio, Mr. Taylor denied hearing such a report and told the court, “I never heard that report.” Mr Koumjian has now mischeviously put Mr Taylor’s denial of ever hearing that report as a basis to impeach Issa Sesay’s testimony when infact Issa’s account has corroborated the prosecution witness’s account that infact diamonds got missing from Issa Sesay’s posession in Monrovia. The prosecution cannot continue to speak with both sides of their mouth. They cannot continue to float aimlessly around. They ave to take a stand instead of constantly refining their case as they go along. Infact Mr Koumjian tried to impeach the credibility of the witness that first testified about the announcement of diamonds being found on the streets of Monrovia by asking if their is any document to prove that infact that announcement was ever made. Am sure the defence will capitalise on this evidently desperate move on the part of the prosecution make them look even sillier than they already look.

  3. Oh my God, another wasted day has come and gone and all we hear is Bockarie say Mr. Taylor made him a hundred and one star rebel general. When will we start to see hard coded facts that directly link Mr. Taylor Sierra Leone crazy war? We are waiting, but for how long Mr. UN sponsor Koumjian?

    Harris K Johnson

  4. This is waste of time,I am getting tired and bored,the prosecutor only making suggestion and sassey is denying it,where is the proof that sassey is lying on stand,the case is on they say,he say,It to cheap to have no evidence in a big case like this.

    1. Bruko, go and find something else to do; maybe, get some used clothings and package them for African Children in Sierra Leone and Liberia, your New home Country, instead of complaining how this trial, all of a sudden, has become so boring and etc..! Mr. Koumjian is doing his job. There are subjects he must cover thouroughly since he has no videos of taylor handing diamonds to two men, and audio of him instructing them that this is gift from Nomi’s secret admirer, gankay taylor mcauthur, president of NPFL. You guys need to stop all these clownning and complaining whenever things do not appear to be going your way! Have a nice say jfallahmenjor the one who stands for TRUTH at all risks!

      1. Well for your information Fallah, time is running out for him. His estimate to conclude cross examination of Issa Sesay is almost over and he has achieved nothing. What a waste of time.

    1. Dear Al-Solo Nyonteh,

      Thank you for your inquiry. Sometimes the problem has to do with the SCSL website, but we’ll be happy to check with the court to see why this particular transcript cannot be viewed.

    2. Dear Al-Solo Nyonteh,

      The Special Court confirmed has confirmed that the RUF transcript from May 10, 2007 is from a closed session, so it cannot be made public.

      1. WOW!
        this goes to my question from before. what statute permits secret testimony that is not available to the public? any testimony taken and transcribed in a “closed session” is secret!
        can you kindly refer me to that statute that permits such?

        1. Hi Cen,
          I should have sent you these references ages ago. If you take a look at Rules 75 and 79 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the Special Court for Sierra Leone fount at, you’ll see the legal reasons why the evidence of certain witnesses could be kept completely away from the public. It mostly has to do with the protection of the identities of victims and witnesses and the Court in such cases can make an order for protective measures which could range from a witness testifyng with a Pseudonym to the use of voice and/or image distortion or completely testifying in closed session. The Court will always ensure that such protective measures are in line with the fair trial rights of the accused. Note also that even with such protective measures, all persons inside the court room including judges, lawyers and the accused person(s) will have full access to the identity of the witness. Such information will only be witheld from the public.

          Hope this helps.

  5. The NPFL peanut club (Noko4, Harris etc) just makes me laugh too much. Koumjian has pointed out like 100 instances of where Sesay changed his story from his own testimony. But you are already convinced. Even DNA and video evidence would still have you howling about some conspiracy. I mean evaulate the evidence fairly at least. Today was bad day for Sesay as while he himself may not be on hook for Freetown, Bockarie certainly was and that means his father Taylor was as well.

    1. Bundu,
      Changed his story in what respect? did he change his story about the source of the arms and ammunition of the RUF? did he change his story about wether he delivers parcels of diamonds to Charles Taylor? these are what this case is really about and those are the types of contradictions that we want to see.

    2. Bundu,
      Questions asked that means ZERO to the charges is what you’re concern about?? Really, what has this prosecutor gained in his questioning of Mr. Sesay?? Comparing what Mr. Taylor said when Mr. Sesay was NOWHERE around to see things from that end??

      Mr. Bockarie is NOT around and MAYBE he could or would have shine a better light on this case….again, the MANDATE of this court is what got the prosecutors struggling…..THE LINK!!!! Have you seen it for I have not…if so, please point it out for Mr. Koumjain is doing his best but HIS BEST is not good enough.

      “Mr. Taylor gave you or Mr. Taylor told you” by Mr. Koumjain is all I heard today….when it’s on FACTUAL RECORD that Mr. Taylor was acting onbehalf of ECOWAS….

  6. Some Taylor advocates make me think about Marcus Brutus and the Commons in Julius Ceaser:

    Mr. Sesay’ s crafty accounts regarding why Sam Buckarie had his Star on his beret as did Charles Taylor rebels was in no way a wasted effort of the prosecution. Either way sites a link between the behavior pattern of Charles Taylor’s NPFL to that of the RUF which makes a hit in the prosecution’s case to show links between the Mr. Taylor and the RUF.

    First, the prosecution is saying that Mr. Buckarie was promoted by Charles Taylor to the rank of general, for it is evident that he (Buckarie) paraded his star on the beret as done by Gen. Yaten and Moses Blah.
    Mr. Sesey , in order to back his argument that Buckarie was promoted by Johnny Paul Koroma , said people got promoted , took their stars off the uniform and put them on the beret; Crafty indeed.
    However, the question is why would a Sierra Leonean rebel disposition his rank(star) so as to appear like a Liberian rebel ? was this a sheared or learned behavior between the NPFL and the RUF?

    Furthermore , i think it is wise to know that saying that sam Buckarie took his star from his uniform and put it on the beret dose not make point because anyone, especially, sesay, could be crafty enough to make such excuse only to distort the strong evidence,brought up by the prosecution, that Mr. Buckarie was promoted to the rank of general by Charles Taylor.

  7. Bundu,

    You have a very long time to keep laughing, either with us or at us but either way makes No difference. By Koumjian suggesting and presenting false and twisted excerpt to Issa can’t amount to anything

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